From the “make this global pandemic ALL about me” folder, friends have asked me about how a situation like COVID-19 affects the practice of law. There are many aspects of the justice system that are turned on their heads when social and economic paradigms hit highs and lows, and the following are just a few to prepare anyone reading for some headaches at the courthouse.
I’ll preface everything with a high-brow disclaimer: I’ve been at this table before. Maybe not in the infectious-disease vein, but in the backdrop of big-picture economic rattling and how it hits an industry that by smell-test is recession-proof. I mean… people are always going to break the law and get divorced, right? Maybe. In no particular order…
Financial strife constitutes the basis for many acts of Domestic Violence. Coupling that with concerns over health, family plans that are now suspended, and an inability to interact with support systems outside of the household can exacerbate the problems on life and cause things to spiral.
If you or a family member are the victim of an act of domestic violence, the Court is still available for your protection. We have Judges in our county who are very cognizant of the need for emergency restraining orders and NOBODY who’s experienced an act placing her/his safety at risk should assume that 77 South Union Street is ‘closed for business.’
Similarly, if you find yourself accused of an act of domestic violence and served with an Order of Protection, it’s imperative that you seek help immediately to know your rights and responsibilities. These are matters that will still continue to be heard as scheduled in Cabarrus County.
The majority of property offenses in North Carolina courts are merchant-related. Shoplifting, larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses; these charges typically involve a vendor and an accused customer or employee. Whether based on need or impulse, a standard litigant in this state is accused of taking something from a business. As such, it would make sense that charges would INCREASE when times are tough.
But if 2008 taught us anything, it’s that the first industry to take a monster hit – especially in these online shopping times – is retail. And when retail scrambles and the fat has to be trimmed, the bullseye falls on one aspect of business: loss prevention. Soooooo counterintuitive as people are going to be more likely to steal when times are tough, but I get it; there are gals and guys in board rooms crunching numbers and determining where dwindling money is best spent for each particular company. Bottom line: if you’re accused of committing a theft from a store and prosecuted, you’re probably going to be in a much smaller group than you would have been a few months ago. Make sure you’re well represented.
This is just real life, People. When the world’s turned on its head, so are all sub-aspects of it. And for many, the default is to turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Not the perfect solution, but none of us make all the right decisions. A few things to consider:
Whether it’s DWI/DUI or drugs, please stay safe. Not just during this time in our world, but from this point forward. If you’re accused of a crime in any facet, though, seek the help of an attorney as soon as possible.
Nobody likes to acknowledge it… especially in the light of the whole “for richer or poorer” stuff… but money can punch a marriage in the balls. It doesn’t mean that one side is being greedy or unamenable or that the other side is slacking; it’s probably more of a product of life setting up like Model A for years and years, and now everyone’s told that Model X will be the benchmark going forward. I’m not Dr. Phil, so there are probably a hundred more Freudian items in play, but I understand the power of inertia.
Shortly. Sweetly. Before overhauling your life litigiously… via separation, equitable distribution, divorce, child support, alimony, alienation of affections, and criminal conversation… take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you’re out of love, or if your 401K shit the bed and you’re projecting. I have clients in each category, and the ones who’ve made sure that their domestic situations aren’t kneejerk assessments are the ones most happy after going through the court system or repairing what’s in place.
When the economy is solid, most have disposable income and a job that precludes them from going to court. When it tanks, though, many are jobless and don’t have extra money. Therein lies the line drawn making the decision between handling an item pro se (or by one’s self) or through an attorney. It makes sense; after all, how badly can you real screw up a speeding, red light, or lane change citation?
The answer is substantially… at least related to the financial implications. Sure, you’re not going to jail by pleading an infraction in a less-than-perfect way, but the burden of a three-year premium increase or a license revocation can feel like a prison sentence.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ve got all the answers; I’ve represented many people who, on Court day 1, were all like “I got this…” Twice the legal fee later, after it could have been dealt with reasonably on the front end, the correct result is obtained… after a bunch of headaches.
Whether it’s DWI (DUI), drugs, family, traffic, or any other area of law, you may find that our current economic and health-related times bring you closer to the system than you’d have ever expected. Keep your chin up; you’re not in the vast minority. Similar to your bank account, it’s how you deal with adversity that will define you and the situation. McCartan Law offers free consults on all areas of our practice and encourage you to give us a call with your concerns.
Your Defense Is Our Focus. If you've been charged with a crime in Cabarrus County within Concord, Kannapolis, Harrisburg, Mt. Pleasant, or Midland; our criminal defense lawyers are ready for you.
We are ready to provide sound, trusted legal guidance for your criminal defense. Our office is based in the center of Concord, North Carolina and we would be glad to discuss any legal matters. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Driving While Intoxicated
Defending people charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI/DUI) constitutes the largest part of McCartan Law’s representation. We encourage all potential clients to take their time and ask questions before choosing an attorney.
Creative strategies are particularly necessary in DWI defenses, as the vast majority of the evidence used against an individual is tendered by trained witnesses (police officers and chemical analysts).
Simply being charged with DWI and having a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 does NOT make one guilty of the offense; it is the burden of the State to prove the elements of the offense and to validate the process by which the investigation was conducted.
While penalties related to a DWI conviction can be harsh, in many circumstances, they can be mitigated.
Despite seeming of little consequence, traffic citations and DMV issues can be complicated with substantial impact. Whether it’s increased fines, insurance premium hikes, or suspensions of one’s license, it’s important that anyone cited in North Carolina know his or her options and rights.
The attorneys at McCartan Law understand the gravity of even the lowest-end infraction and represent our traffic clients with the same zealous attitude we do for those charged with more serious offenses. And in many circumstances, North Carolina traffic law affords attorneys to represent people without forcing them to appear in court.
Nobody thinks about terms like ‘alimony,’ ‘custody,’ equitable distribution,’ or ‘child support’ when they’re at the altar. The realty, however, is that more than half of us will deal with separation and divorce in our lifetime. IT’S NOT AS SCARY AS YOU THINK. Handled properly, family law situations can leave represented parties treated fairly and in a position to move on to the next chapter of their lives.
We serve all family law and domestic law defense in North Carolina.
Personal Injury Law
A very old legal maxim requires that “[t]hose who seek equity (justice) must come to Court with clean hands and a pure heart.” Until one is personally injured in a collision or negatively affected by medical services received, it may be tempting to rely on urban legends such as “whip lash” and “sponges left in the body” as an attempt at unwarranted recovery. And it is unfortunate that some do take advantage of insurance companies by making fraudulent or exaggerated claims, as this makes the world all the more skeptical of even those with legitimate damages.
McCartan Law seeks to represent people who have real injuries and real losses. It is selective in accepting cases for representation, wanting to help injured and wronged people through difficult times.
“A good attorney knows to have all required tools in his bag when he walks into the court house; a great attorney does innovative and clever things with those tools.”
At McCartan Law, we take pride on our clever ability to think and act differently to establish the absolute best defense for our clients.
We know every dollar that you spend towards your criminal defense strategy matters and can be an intimidating process deciding on your defense team. At McCartan Law, we offer a free consultation to help you get to know our team and develop a strategy that makes you feel not only confident, but most importantly comfortable with your choice.
To contact any of our team members at McCartan Law for your free criminal defense strategy, please click here!
As promised in our Behind The Scenes at McCartan Law blog post earlier this October, McCartan Law now brings you our secret weapon of a Criminal Defense Attorney, Courtney Neal.
Originally from Texas, Courtney moved to the area in 2013 to attend law school. Her passion for advocacy began during her legal education as a member of the Trial Team Honor Board where she competed in national competitions. Preparing for these events gave her valuable opportunities to develop strong trial skills, case theory and development, and command of the rules of evidence. These still remain key focuses of her practice today. Courtney completed her legal studies in two and half years, graduating with pro bono honors and joined the firm in 2016 as an associate in the Concord office.
Ms. Neal's practice focuses primarily on criminal defense and traffic matters. Being able to assist clients and their families in navigating a sometimes-complicated system is a key motivator in her advocacy. And understanding that no two cases or litigants are identical, Courtney enjoys working directly with clients and their families in achieving results based on their individual needs. She prides herself on communicating frankly and frequently with her clients throughout the entire litigation process.
Away from the office, Courtney enjoys traveling, sporting events, and spending time with friends and family. She is an active member of the Junior League of Charlotte where she volunteers throughout the area to improve the lives of children and families in the Charlotte community.
To contact Courtney for any North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney needs, please click here!
Behind every successful law firm holds a strategically recruited team of attorneys and staff members. Have you had a moment to check out the North Carolina Criminal Defense Team of Masterminds yet at McCartan Law? Well if you haven't yet, here is our gift to you.
Chris McCartan grew up in Buffalo, New York, and has lived in Concord since 2002. As the child of a single mother, he learned the values of hard work and responsibility from one of the most incredible women in the world.
A graduate of Syracuse University, Chris received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and his Master’s Degree in Public Administration. He was also fortunate to leave SU as a National Champion, Captain, and three-year starter of the Orange lacrosse team. Chris went on to receive his law degree from the University of Buffalo.
Chris moved to North Carolina and practiced with his mentor and partner, Bill Powers, from 2002 to 2017. He practices criminal defense almost exclusively, with a particular focus on Driving While Impaired (DWI), domestic crimes, and drug-related offenses.
Throughout his 15-year legal career, Mr. McCartan has been committed to three things: preparedness, creativity, and empathy. With respect to the first two, “a good attorney knows to have all required tools in his bag when he walks into the court house; a great attorney does innovative and clever things with those tools.” Chris feels the third prong of his representation is the most important: understanding his clients’ positions in the circumstances they’re facing. “As defense attorneys, we represent a lot of great people accused of some less-than-flattering things. Whether guilty, innocent, or somewhere in the middle, zealous representation starts with understanding what lies behind the name and case number attached to the client.”
Away from the office, Chris is married to Michelle, a Cabarrus County School Teacher, and they have two children: Brodie and Sally. Chris was a two-term Chairman of the Cabarrus County Republican Party, and was also a member of the Party’s Board At-Large prior to being elected. He is Co-President of Carolina Miners Lacrosse, a youth lacrosse organization based in Cabarrus County, a Habitat for Humanity Board Member, and swims with the Sailfish Masters.
Check back in with us this October to meet our other North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney mastermind at McCartan Law, Courtney Neal.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences in North Carolina : a DWI snippet, and a lot about Drugs
I've recently seen an uptick with respect to clients charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimum sentences. And, sure: structured sentencing in North Carolina has provided substantial jail time for certain high-level felonies and repeat offenders since the mid-90s. But nuances in the law mandate some misdemeanants and first-time lower-level felons serve long, compulsory prison terms that’s application can be appropriate, but at other times draconian.
Let’s talk first about an offense treated as a Misdemeanor in North Carolina that can bring mandatory terms of imprisonment: Driving While Impaired (and, yes: this includes DUI, OUI, OWI, Drunk Driving, and all other variations that are used from state to state). I bring this up first because it will always be one of the hot-button social and political issues in American jurisprudence… and understandably so. Its offenders come from all demographics, its enforcement requires substantial police resources, and most important, there are often victims of the crime who will never be the same. Our legislature has consistently placed an emphasis on greater enforcement of DWI and has received the support of our higher Courts in most circumstances over the last 30-years.
The most recent substantial change in North Carolina DWI/DUI statutory law is the imposition of a new level of sentencing: Aggravated Level I. I’ll provide a more detailed explanation as to the different levels of Impaired Driving in a different medium, but long and short: Agg1 requires, after conviction, the State proving at least three Grossly Aggravating Factors (prior DWI within the last seven years, being Revoked at the time of the current offense for a prior DWI-related issue, having a child or handicapped person in the vehicle, or causing a substantial bodily injury). This is a complete gamechanger when it comes to the effect on an offender’s life, as it takes the minimum required sentence of 30-days active to 120-days incarceration as a term of probation. And, remember: this is the minimum. A judge has the discretion to sentence a defendant to up to three-years… without the protection of Fair Sentencing (which other DWI/DUI offenders are sentenced under).
Here’s where I get to be a citizen/husband/father at the same time that I’m a North Carolina criminal defense attorney: I understand the legislature’s and law-enforcement’s concerns. At the end of the day, if a. guilt of the offense of DWI /DUI is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and b. a minimum of three GAFs are properly proven, increased punishments are probably appropriate. This is why it is imperative, however, to explore ALL defenses as to the elements of the offense AND the sentencing enhancements in every charge. Being accused of Impaired Driving does NOT make you guilty. And being guilty of DWI/DUI does NOT allow you to be taken advantage of by the system during sentencing. Determine what the State can prove, go to trial or plead accordingly, and make sure you’re advocated for after disposition.
Now we’ll discuss the other area of Mandatory Minimum culture that’s moved the needle recently… and that, as criminal defense attorney and as a citizen, I believe there to be a monster disparity as to appropriate enforcement: Trafficking of Controlled Substances.
Already, I feel the eye-roll from readers as to any sympathy I give to those accused with trafficking. This starts with the semantic connotation, as the very word conjures up images of ‘El Chapo’ and Pablo Escobar moving boatloads of cocaine onto American streets. In North Carolina, however, the manner of possession, requisite weight, and variation of the drug bring the pool of accused into the status quo.
We’ll go in order.
First, the manner of possession to make someone guilty of trafficking does NOT require a sale. It doesn’t require transport. It doesn’t require disposition. Hell: it doesn’t even require another person. The only thing necessary to be accused of trafficking from an elemental standpoint is the actual possession of an illegal controlled substance if the other elements are satisfied.
Next, the requisite weight of any controlled substance to allow one to be charged with trafficking is not what most think. For example, a charge of Cocaine trafficking requires possession of ONE ounce. Opiates/heroin: four GRAMS. I won’t be coy; there are many times that possession of these types and quantities of drugs is objectively criminal. But further analysis of the plethora of fact patterns possible will show how this can become inequitable and unjust.
Lastly, and dovetailing from the last paragraph, “controlled substances” does NOT mean “street drugs.” For statutory purposes, the law only considers whether the substance was lawfully possessed and whether it is on a schedule designated by our legislature under NCGS 90-95.
So, how’d we get here? And I don’t mean that question as completely cynical of government, because as I alluded to above, there are times that large amounts of drugs are criminal. But of the many things contributing to the designation and enforcement of trafficking offenses, we need to look back to the mid-1980s and the “War on Drugs.” By the way, I’m a big Reagan fan and am certainly not besmirching the motivation of his administration on this point. It was just a different time. Cocaine was big; black-tar heroin was growing; overdoses and drug-related homicides were spiking. As ‘Just Say No’ became the mantra of the day and laws became stricter, creative criminal defense attorneys began to argue that the amounts of controlled substances allocated to their clients should be downgraded because in transit from one dealer to the next, the purity of the actual drug was a fraction of the whole he or she was caught with. Mad respect to those lawyers and their advocacy, by the way. But from the “you can’t fight city hall” playbook, our federal and state legislatures stepped in and invoked the notion of “aggregate weight.” Effectively, a kilogram of cocaine testing 30% actual cocaine / 70% baking soda would statutorily be considered a kilo for criminal liability purposes. Frankly, I get it; we’d be hard-pressed to give the benefit of impurity to a truly-guilty dealer who was going to get the benefit of the weight if never arrested. BUT, these laws – that remain either unchanged or enhanced – never envisioned the opiate culture of 2019.
Three accused individuals; three sentences. You play the match game:
Defendant A is a Vietnam vet who is prescribed Percocet by the VA for his service-related injuries. He is disabled and single, and to keep the lights on and buy groceries, he forsakes his own pain and sells 8 tablets to a neighbor.
Defendant B has been convicted of multiple prior offenses – including felonies – and sells 25-grams of cocaine and 5-pounds of marijuana to an 18-year old high school senior for a party in the fields… that 40-year old B attends. B also has a mustache.
Defendant C has severe arthritis and a congenital spine disease. Her conditions manifest in waves; she has average months and really bad weeks. Knowing her own ebb and flows, she refills her prescription for hydrocodone whenever eligible… despite not using all during times when her symptoms are manageable. After pulled over for speeding, an officer finds a prescription bottle denoted for 10 tablets but that contains 25 that she has saved.
All are convicted of a crime. One is sentenced to a minimum of 90-months in prison; another 70-months; the remaining offender gets probation. Who gets what?
Clearly, this is an example for effect, and there will always be odd subtleties in the law that don’t make a ton of sense. But it does make for a scary proposition; that people we can all identify with who’ve never been charged with another crime can have their liberty taken because of some laws that may be enforced inequitably.
Here’s where I get to make some lemonade out of these lemons as a believer in our system of criminal defense, procedure, and justice. Even if charged with one of the afore-referenced crimes with mandatory prison sentences upon conviction:
Thoughts? Questions? Hit me.